Departing Lame-Duck Gov. Kasich Battles Ohio Legislature on Guns, Abortion

‘A lot of people ask about what the governor thinks … The reality is the will of the caucus is what we try to follow…’

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John Kasich/Photo by Gage Skidmore (CC)

(Lionel Parrott, Liberty Headlines) While Gov. John Kasich is headed to New Hampshire to test the waters for a long-shot presidential bid, the legislature of his state of Ohio is challenging him on a number of key issues, according to

Among them: guns, abortion and the balance of powers.

On Wednesday, the State House voted 64–26 to advance a bill that would make Ohio a “stand your ground” state. If the bill becomes law, the burden of proof in cases of self-defense would shift to prosecutors, who would have to prove otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt.

In passing the bill, they’re ignoring a warning by Kasich that he would not sign “stand your ground” legislation. Instead, Kasich has urged the Republican-controlled General Assembly to pass “common sense” gun control.

The legislature also challenged Kasich on the contentious issue of abortion with a “fetal heartbeat” bill. In 2016, Kasich vetoed a similar bill that would ban abortions in case a fetal heartbeat is detected. Such a ban could apply to pregnancies as early as five weeks.

While the incoming governor, Attorney General Mike DeWine, says he’ll sign such legislation, House Republicans hope they won’t have to wait that long and can pass it into law during the current ‘lame-duck’ session. On Thursday, the bill passed the House of Representatives 58–35, and it now goes before the Senate.

If the legislature gets its way, it won’t be even the first time this week that its members have rebuffed the governor. On Wednesday, the General Assembly managed to override Kasich’s summertime veto of Senate Bill 221, which could dramatically alter the balance of power when it comes to control of state agencies.

Endorsed by the business community, S.B. 221 would allow anyone adversely affected by an agency rule to appeal it to a legislative panel.

The sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Joe Uecker, says the bill arose out of concerns that state agencies were making rules outside of the law.

In explaining his veto, Kasich said that such a panel already existed in the legislature, and that the determinations of agencies under his control should be considered final.

Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof called the legislation a “right-sizing of the relationship between the legislature and executive branch” and “certainly not personal in any way.”

Obhof’s House counterpart, Speaker Ryan Smith, says he thinks more Kasich vetoes might be on the way—and perhaps more overrides as well. He mentioned the fetal heartbeat bill in particular.

“I think a lot of people ask about what the governor thinks about this, whether it’s the current governor or the next governor,” he said. “The reality is the will of the caucus is what we try to follow, and the will of the caucus is to protect the rights of the unborn.”

As this drama in the Ohio legislature unfolds, Kasich will be returning from a visit to New Hampshire. According to a source close to the governor’s administration, Kasich is expected to throw his hat into the presidential ring. The source says the initial plan is to test the waters as a Republican candidate.

In the likely event that he fails to pick up traction there, the frequent Trump foe might then run as an independent. Given his recent penchant for liberalism, Kasich leaving the Republican Party might come as welcome news to everyone.